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Old 08.07.2012, 12:16
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Moving to Bern

Hello everyone,

I have been lurking on this site for about a week now and thought it would be great to join. My husband is a Foreign Service Officer for the US State Department and so we moved about every two to three years to a new Embassy/post.

We currently live in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, have one more year here. This past Wednesday we found out our next post will be starting June/July 2014 in Bern, Switzerland! We are incredibly stoked!

Both of us have visited Switzerland and just love the beauty, the atmosphere etc. I have only been on a train through Bern though, so that is a new city for me.

First we will be going through a year of additional training including German language training back in DC from June 2013. We have many family members on both sides that already speak German so we are stoked to join their numbers.

Anyways I know we have two years but I am a planner and already starting research like how much apartments cost (we get a housing allowance) and what kind of car we should buy for Switzerland.

Would be great to meet some people to hang out with when we are there too!

Please feel free to ask any questions or if you have some helpful information that would be great too!
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Old 08.07.2012, 12:32
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Re: Moving to Bern

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Hello everyone,

I have been lurking on this site for about a week now and thought it would be great to join. My husband is a Foreign Service Officer for the US State Department and so we moved about every two to three years to a new Embassy/post.

We currently live in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, have one more year here. This past Wednesday we found out our next post will be starting June/July 2014 in Bern, Switzerland! We are incredibly stoked!

Both of us have visited Switzerland and just love the beauty, the atmosphere etc. I have only been on a train through Bern though, so that is a new city for me.

First we will be going through a year of additional training including German language training back in DC from June 2013. We have many family members on both sides that already speak German so we are stoked to join their numbers.

Anyways I know we have two years but I am a planner and already starting research like how much apartments cost (we get a housing allowance) and what kind of car we should buy for Switzerland.

Would be great to meet some people to hang out with when we are there too!

Please feel free to ask any questions or if you have some helpful information that would be great too!
Welcome to the Forum and Switzerland!!

I wouldn't buy a car because the transport system is so good here.
Bern is a great city with great tram lines and a bus system.


Is it just you and your husband? A two bedroom apartment will
cost about 1800 - 2000 for a really nice one.

Let us know if you have questions about whatever!
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Old 08.07.2012, 12:42
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Re: Moving to Bern

Well we want a small car (looking at a VW GTI) because we plan to do some driving around the country, especially trips to Ikea when we first get there, as I have read a lot of the apartments come without window treatments or even over head light fixtures. Is that true?

Another question, I have read a lot of buildings have just a communal washer/dryer. Is it possible to find apartments with washer/dryers in the apartment, even a European combo one? I am just worried about being assigned that one time day and time slot because honestly we aren't always the best at sticking to schedules like that. Or might need an outfit for an event etc right away and needs to be washed. That is my biggest concern with apartments really.

We also have 3 cats which we are bringing with us, so we need a pet friendly apartment. Hopefully the embassy will help us find some places but I want to kinda get a head start on what to expect.

As FSO we get access to US military commissary shop in German, which makes buying american food products and even electronics a lot less expensive than Switzerland, so need a car for that.
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Old 08.07.2012, 13:36
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Re: Moving to Bern

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apartments come without window treatments or even over head light fixtures. Is that true?

Another question, I have read a lot of buildings have just a communal washer/dryer.
All the apartment that I have had in Switzerland have had blinds.

Lights will have to be installed by you and your husband unless
you get a furnished flat, and furnished flats are somewhat uncommon.

Many of the buildings only have a communal washer/dryer, and you
are not allowed to wash on Sunday.

The many of the newer apartment buildings, however, have connections.
You would have to buy the washer/dryer though.
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Old 08.07.2012, 13:47
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Re: Moving to Bern

hmm maybe we can find one the new buildings thanks! I am sure we could always sell our appliances when we leave to another Embassy couple.

Does anyone think we will have any difficulty find a place that allows pets? Our cats are very clean and don't damage anything (they sleep most the day haha). Places back in the US are just strict on number of pets etc or allowing pets.

Ok so lights are not common, well that is something to pick up at Ikea. You would think they would install them, so people didn't have to constantly change them out.

No problem about furniture, we are going to bring some that we have in storage back in the US and then whatever else we need, buy there.
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Old 08.07.2012, 14:31
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Re: Moving to Bern

Hi there

I live in Zurich but I'm assuming Apartments across CH would be the same, I've had two apartments here and both of them have had their own washer and dryer in one of the bathrooms, neither of them are new buildings though I don't know if that makes a difference?

We have been lucky in that the previous residents left light fittings in most rooms otherwise you are just left with the wires poking through the ceiling!

We have a dog and had no problems finding apartments though it does narrow your selection quite a bit!

I think all apartments have external blinds which provide enough privacy/light control, there are no internal fixtures though there are tracks fitted above each window for when you want to hang something there.

We brought our freezer from the UK and use it extra to the one provided in the apartment, I think I'm right in saying each apartment here has locked underground storage space with power supply so that's where we have ours as the one in our kitchen has only a small freezer box.

Hope this helps! Good luck with your planning and eventually your move!
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Old 08.07.2012, 15:08
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Re: Moving to Bern

Hi! Congratulations on coming to Switzerland - I hope you enjoy it. I'm also an American living here.

We've lived outside Bern and now in Winterthur (near Zuerich). In Bern, we had our own washer and dryer in a separate washing cellar downstairs and in Winterthur, we have a washer and dryer in one of our bathrooms. We've got a dog, and have been able to find flats that take pets. We also have a car. If you want a car, you're better off to live a bit outside the city center so you can also have a parking space/garage.

Bern's a lovely city, the views are fabulous and the public transportation is excellent, but I totally understand your desire for a car. Something you might also look into is the mobility scheme (mobility.ch), where you can rent a car for errands, trips, etc.

We lived south of the city in a small town called Belp. It would be inconvenient without a car, but there is a train every half hour into the city center. It's then an easy walk to the embassy, if that's where you work. I like the area south of Bern a lot, towns like Muensingen, Thun, Seftigen, Belp, Rubigen, Worb, Guemligen. Lots of expats live in Mueri bei Bern - but housing might be pricey.

Generally all the kitchen appliances are in place, and blinds, but you may or may not have to install overhead lighting.

There's also a small American women's club in Bern, very friendly, and they can be helpful. (awcbern.org)
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Old 08.07.2012, 16:18
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Re: Moving to Bern

Welcome to Bern.

I have lived in the Bern area since October 2010 and I love it here. Contrary to the other posts neither of my two apartments have come with any window treatments - I have had to buy them. In fact I bought some in the UK during a visit home and made others. Choice of ready made curtains was very limited but perhaps I didnt look in the right shops. There was plenty of choice if you wanted net curtains and you can have them made for you but the price is very expensive. I have also had to buy my own freezer/microwave - stove and fridge were the only items available. Washers and dryers are often in the downstairs cellar - you book a day/time on a sheet when you want to do it and you can vary the time each week depending on what you are doing. However, there are several apartments where washers and dryers are available in the apartment as well as a dishwasher. My first apartment had no light fittings but my second one did so it can vary - depends on the agency. If you live in the Old Town in Bern, the clock does chime all night which can wake you up until you become used to it. It does seem so much louder at night. With regard to prices of apartments, internet sites like Immoscout24 will give you an idea of the price range. The individual ads will also give an indication of the type of kitchen appliances available in the apartment. Apartments do go very quickly though so I do tend to concentrate on the new insertions first. I arrived in Switzerland with no German and only schoolgirl French. However, we have found that the majority of people, on hearing you speak English, welcome the opportunity to practice their English with you. At our local Migros, the shop assistant gives us a German word of the day and we give her an English one. We have also found it useful to have a car. When you arrive, have a look in a nearby garage and you may find a small car with low mileage for a reasonable cost. The one we bought had 10 km on the clock and had a price reduction of 4000 CHF because of this. However, for longer journeys we do tend to use the train, eg Lugano (we both have a Halbtax card - you pay half price on the trains/trams or can buy a day ticket for 58/68 CHF depending on time of travel which allows you to travel on as many trains and buses that you want to on that day with no further charge. A halbtax card costs 165 CHF for the year so is well worth it.)
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Old 08.07.2012, 16:57
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Re: Moving to Bern

Thank you everyone for such helpful and friendly advice and suggestions.

I think our biggest priority is the washer/dryer and two bedrooms (as we already have a lot of family and friends lining up for a visit). I know the embassy will help us some, especially when it comes to signing the lease. They told us to expect to take 2-3 weeks to find a place on average, and till then we will be in temporary housing.

We plan to use a lot of public transportation, especially for going to and from work at the Embassy during the week. I really want to bring a compact car, because it seems very convenient from what I have read, for weekend trips, shopping in Zurich etc. My husband is still on the fence. We will bring a car, as we get duty free status.

Thanks for the website Phygelius.

We can't wait for our move to Bern
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Old 22.10.2012, 13:22
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Re: Moving to Bern

Hi there, I hope you're all settled in and enjoying a beautiful city of Bern. I'm currently living at Brunnen Westside, 10 mins by train from Bern zentrum. We relocated 2 months ago from my home country Hong Kong to Switzerland for two/three years. I have a 6th years old bischon frise dog. Our newly furnished apartment is CHF1800 with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathroom, 1 summer room and a laundry room with a washing machine and dryer. I'm more happy to help if you need so please feel free to ask Take care xx
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Old 22.10.2012, 14:27
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Re: Moving to Bern

Have you looked into the option of using Mobility rather than buying a car? It seems ideal for those with occasional, as opposed to regular, need for a car.
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Old 07.11.2012, 01:39
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Re: Moving to Bern

Hi FSOWife,

You'll find there's a lot of apartments available for pet owners - we have two house rabbits and never a problem when looking for a new place. We've also had our own washer and dryer in each place.

With regards to cost, our 125 sq m apartment cost CHF 2,500 plus CHF 130 for parking - that was newly refurbished, two bathrooms, three bedrooms in a nice, green suburb of Bern. We rent a house now which costs a bit more and they don't come on the rental market so often. The accommodation you end up with will always be determined by a combination of your budget, square metre requirements and choice of location.

On the car front, there are two of us and we have two cars but we have a driveway so don't pay extra for parking - which can be costly. We bought our cars here because the Swiss vehicle testing can be tricky and I did read that US spec cars may not pass those tests but there will be plenty of folks on here far more knowledgeable than I in that respect.

Good luck with your move!
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Old 07.11.2012, 07:29
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Re: Moving to Bern

Welcome to the Forum! I imagine your lives will certainly be different here!

Berne is a beautiful medieval city, it was not built with cars in mind, and has very good public transport. You can buy an annual pass for all public transport in the area of Berne.

Bringing a VW Golf here for occasional use and for only 2 years really doesn't make any sense. The Swiss car ownership sharing company is very good, the only drawback is you have to return the car exactly where you picked it up,

http://www.mobility.ch/en/pub/index.cfm

There are cars available throughout the city, look at all the red car symbols on this map, http://map.search.ch/bern?poi=anzeigen

Another alternative is to buy a 10 year old car and sell a 12 year old car when you leave. The Swiss have many hurdles to jump, and unless it is a very interesting car, it really isn't worth the effort and the costs to import it.

.
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Old 21.01.2013, 14:45
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Re: Moving to Bern

We have decided not to take a car to Switzerland. If we need one then we will buy one from probably in the diplomatic community who is selling their car. I am doubtful we will need one due to the great public transportation.

Is it true you can take dogs on public transportation, and what about trains?
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Old 21.01.2013, 14:48
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Re: Moving to Bern

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Is it true you can take dogs on public transportation, and what about trains?
Yes to both, but you need to buy a ticket unless the dog is small enough to sit in a bag on your lap.
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Old 21.01.2013, 18:40
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Re: Moving to Bern

Hi and welcome. Make sure when you do get around to trying to find an apartment that the embassy staff helping you know that you have 3 cats. Also tell landlords that you have cats; often dogs aren't welcome but cats are okay. Sometimes it needs to be reinforced otherwise you could find yourself suddenly "homeless" when you thought it was a done deal.

Sites for accommodation are:

www.immostreet.ch
www.immoscout24.ch
www.homegate.ch
www.home.ch

There are a couple of useful books: "Living and Working in Switzerland" and "Buying and Renting in Switzerland". The first gives you a good idea of what's needed to move and live here, while the second concentrates on the property side. I'd advise getting "Living and Working" first and having a read, then if you think you'll send the other one you can get it. Both available from your local bookshop or Amazon.

And be warned it won't be proper German that you hear once you arrive, but a variation of Swiss German probably. Hopefully, you'll soon adjust to the differences and be speaking fluently.
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Old 21.01.2013, 19:35
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Re: Moving to Bern

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Hi and welcome. Make sure when you do get around to trying to find an apartment that the embassy staff helping you know that you have 3 cats. Also tell landlords that you have cats; often dogs aren't welcome but cats are okay. Sometimes it needs to be reinforced otherwise you could find yourself suddenly "homeless" when you thought it was a done deal.

Sites for accommodation are:

www.immostreet.ch
www.immoscout24.ch
www.homegate.ch
www.home.ch

There are a couple of useful books: "Living and Working in Switzerland" and "Buying and Renting in Switzerland". The first gives you a good idea of what's needed to move and live here, while the second concentrates on the property side. I'd advise getting "Living and Working" first and having a read, then if you think you'll send the other one you can get it. Both available from your local bookshop or Amazon.

And be warned it won't be proper German that you hear once you arrive, but a variation of Swiss German probably. Hopefully, you'll soon adjust to the differences and be speaking fluently.
Thank you Medea. We are a little over a year out from our move.

We are always up front about our pet situation and wouldn't dream of living in a place that didn't accept our pets. The State Department has already informed us with their welcome packet, that we will most likely be placed into temporary housing for two to three weeks while we search for an apartment.

I understand that it is swiss German and we are learning German this year to be as fluent as possible. Unfortunately, the State department only gives us German and not Swiss German.

I already have those books in my Amazon book list to read as we get closer.

Thank you for the tips.
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Old 21.01.2013, 19:44
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Re: Moving to Bern

Hi,

You will love Bern and I'll chime in with Mobility. They have a nice selection of cars and you can always buy one later if you feel you need it. Also if you are a mobility member you can get a great rate at avis or hertz.

The costs for an apartment are about right. Immoscout24.ch and homegate have good search options to narrow it down. The embassy is about a five minute walk from the main train station so that is also a nonissue in terms of the car.

As for the cats, most apartment owners do not have an issue with them BUT three of them could be an issue and they might require a higher security deposit although I have never have had a problem.

As for the washer/dryer; they have become more common in the newer places and most Expats have trouble getting used to the "schedules".

My first place had a "strict" schedule but I was able to change my day with an older lady (people that work, could usually find an understanding neighbor). But it was a bit of a drag. Second place had a first come/first serve policy but I sometimes forgot to move the laundry fast enough in the dryer and a neighbor sometimes came by as a "friendly" reminder.

What you cannot do is add a washer/dryer combo without the approval of the landlord (if you find a space). Like previous posters have mentioned in the newer/larger/more expensive apartments it has become a nice perk.

I've gotten used to the washer schedule and if you have guests, you can always ask a neighbor if you could do a load. I've never had anybody say no.

I'm very happy in Bern and although people are more reserved than we are used to, they are generally helpful if you ask for help.

A fun book about Switzerland (written by a Brit who lives in Bern) is:
http://www.dicconbewes.com/about-the...swisswatching/

His website has some fun tidbits:
http://www.dicconbewes.com

Good luck and look forward to meeting you in 2014!

Cheers,

Phillyman
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Old 21.01.2013, 19:59
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Re: Moving to Bern

About Swiss German...

Don't even try. Most Swiss are VERY particular if you try to speak it. You will fail (not even Germans can speak it). The best you can hope for is to understand some of it (in context) but again if you speak English, most people can help you from there.

I feel basic German is nice for reading a menu and simple "tourist" stuff; where is the bathroom. Also since Bern is at the language border, people speak French fairly well. This can be easier to understand because a lot of English/French words have the same origin.

If you travel just around Bern, you can get a regional fare card called libero:
http://www.libero-tarifverbund.ch for 750 francs (annual rate, they do have weekly/monthly) you can use all public transportation in Bern and part of the suburbs (areas farther away you can add more "zones").

Either get a half fare card as a poster suggested OR if you REALLY will travel A LOT than you can get a GA (http://www.sbb.ch/en/travelcards-and...dividuals.html) This is pretty expensive but if you go away every week or if would like to travel during the time your husband works. It can become a pretty good deal. It allows you to travel unlimited on practically ALL of the Swiss public transportation lines (there are restrictions on some mountain cable cars). This pass can also be had weekly/monthly and is well worth it for visitors. ( The version for people not living in Switzerland is called a Swiss pass (http://www.swisstravelsystem.com/en/...s-pass-en.html)

I had one while commuting between Zurich and liked to never have to worry about buying a ticket....


Good luck,

Phillyman
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Old 21.01.2013, 20:07
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Re: Moving to Bern

Well hopefully I will get at least a part time job at the Embassy. I am currently working at the Embassy here in Ethiopia. But I do want time to explore our area, more of Switzerland that I haven't seen.

I took 3 years of French in school but I definitely need some brushing up so we got French Rossetta stone to help me with that. My husband does not speak french.

My husband is required to learn German for his job. He will be (and hopefully me as well) will be in 8 months of intensive full day language training. So the goal is to be pretty fluent by the time we arrive.

Our cats are great, never had problem getting housing with them, and always got our deposit back in the states. Now we just really want a dog. We have no problem paying additional deposits if necessary. Our pets are members of our family.

We look forward to meeting people when we arrive in Bern as well!
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